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‘how to make content to promote messages for peace’

04/10/2014

In October 2014 I gave a speech at an event organised for the Department of Communities and Local Government and Breakthrough Digital entitled – digital capacity building project – ‘how to make content to promote messages for peace’ – aimed at local community organisations in the Leeds and Yorkshire area.  here is my speech.

Effective communications – getting peace messages out and about

Introduction

My name is Nick Taylor and I am the Chief Executive of the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace.

I’m not a peace practitioner – my specialism is in two areas. First, helping complex organisations unlock their intellectual capital. Sounds complicated but what I mean is unlocking the ’softer’ elements of what makes an organisation successful – how they manage their stakeholders from their customers to their investors to the media to their people. Aspects such as ethics and risk and quality as opposed to the harder elements such as assets and finance. The second thing I do is in advising organisations on corporate, environmental and social governance and impact.

I work across all sectors. With bodies like district and city councils and the NHS in the public sector on anything from internal restructures through to hospital reconfiguration to health literacy campaigns. With the private sector, with energy companies undertaking national infrastructure projects through to utilities undertaking large capital projects or operating in sensitive environments. And in the third sector with social enterprise and charities with experience in the arts, health, heritage and most recently peace building and conflict resolution.

I tell you all this because most of those organisations, whilst wildly diverse and different, actually share very similar challenges and therefore similar solutions. Most commonly how they communicate and these days in unlocking their digital capacity.

Today I am going to talk a little bit about that, but I want to do that in a practical way aligned to the way we develop, produce and disseminate communications at the Foundation for Peace and give some examples of social media use and film content that we’ve planned recently. So what better way to introduce this by showing a film we have produced. Let’s take a look

(show film)

So now you have seen the film let me talk for a few minutes and you listen (this time without the moving images) let me try and give you a narrative version of what you have just seen – in other words what I say about the Foundation and then see if you think the five minute film effectively presented what I will now describe and perhaps the gaps between the pitch and how we presented the film.

Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace

is a charity that works nationally and internationally FOR PEACE and non-violent conflict resolution

In 1993 the IRA exploded two bombs without warning in a shopping street in the town of Warrington. It was the day before Mothering Sunday and very busy. The bombs in bins created shrapnel that killed three-year-old Johnathan Ball and five days later 12-years-old Tim Parry lost his life. 54 others were seriously injured. The incident shocked the nation and gained worldwide publicity.

The Parents of Tim Parry, supported by Johnathan’s parents (Johnathan’s parents have passed away) wanted to gain an understanding of why they lost their children. Colin and Wendy Parry were taken by BBC Panorama to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland the USA – during that visit they saw some of the work going on to create peace. They came back inspired, like many there victims, to try and make sure nobody ever experienced what they had gone through.

They formed a charitable trust with many of the donations that had come in after the bombing and they wrote a best selling book about their experience. A scholarship commenced in Tims’ name bringing together young people from different sides of the conflict to try to understand their differences and also share their commonalities.

Wendy Parry had the idea to create a location to house the scholarship and they set a vision to build a centre as a living memorial to the boys so nobody would forget them and that peace could be created. The project became a millennium goal and grew substantially with the involvement of Government and national charity the NSPCC. Opened in 2000, the Centre is a multi-purpose building on a large scale with incredible facilities from residential quarters to cafe to sport to art to special spaces for conferences and project work.

Early work started developing projects in line with new citizenship agendas in schools and by undertaking a huge and diverse number of projects and activities ranging from community youth clubs to residential programmes. In 2001 the Foundation undertook a study looking at the specific needs of GB domiciled victims of the Northern Ireland conflict and from this report work began to provide a series of activities to assist those victims. At the same time, conflict was changing with the likes of 9/11, 7/7 and a gradual move to peace in Northern Ireland. The Foundation began to develop its capabilities working not only with young people but communities generally in building peace and conflict resolution skills.

The Foundation has developed over a further 14 years and is independent and funded as a charity. We do not take sides, we are not aligned to any conflict, we are not faith or political based and we do not pursue causes such as justice or truth. There is no other organisation that takes such a stance. This ‘unique’ positioning is enhanced that we also believe to tackle serious violent conflict (terrorism, political violence, war) you have to deal with the prevention, resolution and response – the before, during and after – it is this combination of skills alongside our position that makes us unique.

We campaign only for one thing…For Peace…that is conflict is inevitable but using violence is not.

We deliver a unique programme made up of numerous projects that continue to develop to match contemporary challenges. Our work still focuses on young people, from offering general leadership development to working with those who may be vulnerable or at risk of using violence or being influenced by extremism. We develop skills with people including working with women to enhance their conflict resolution skills and recognise their unique ability to influence within families and the community. We assist GB citizens and other people domiciled here that may have been a victim, survivor or affected by serious violent conflict

The Foundation continues to grow by reputation and undertakes many projects internationally working with other Non Governmental Organisations. We Chair the European Union’s Radicalisation Awareness Network. We employ a highly skilled in-house team with an extended professional associate network. We provide consultancy including preparedness for humanitarian incidents, facilitation of dialogue and specialist input into the likes of educational resources and new media. In addition our Centre is home to many community organisations and privately hired by many other charities through to businesses for its use as a ‘safe and inspiring and adaptable space’.

What we do?

In essence when asked what we do it is probably one of the hardest questions to answer in a brief and simple manner. Peace is not an easy concept to get a handle on. What we realised very early on in our journey is that conflict is inevitable but the use of violence to further one’s aims and as part of conflict is not a given. In fact the way to resolve any conflict is through dialogue – effective communication. That means on one level it is about listening and hearing and acknowledging other people’s positions on another level it is about influencing behaviours and attitudes. So our projects and overall programme all follow a similar pattern. We create a safe space in which conversations, some of them very difficult, can take place. A space in which we can apply experiential learning and share tools and techniques to enable people to communicate effectively thus helping in conflict resolution and peace building.

The challenges we face

So what are the challenges we face in making the leap from the words I just delivered and the film.

First, challenge for us is we are complex, overly complex and at time impenetrable.

Second, is we are balancing many stakeholders and that film has to speak on many levels – setting our context and history, educating and informing, showing how we deliver, telling our story and acting as a ‘call to action’ – in this case a direct appeal for funding.

Third, how we balance sensitivities with a hard hitting subject area.

So let me throw out some of the techniques we used and that hopefully you spotted in use:

First – the film was relatively short (five minutes) but kept refreshing, staring with high impact of the bombing using actual footage and a powerful narration from our Founder – we used the mother’s voice and news footage of the the father setting the call to action for our Foundation in his son’s name.

Second – we didn’t linger or shock but we sought empathy and engagement before sounding a complete change to building and providing hope. Then we totally changed coming up to date and using a combination of our own people and third party voices to describe the work and our impact.

Third, we allowed people to see our key asset the Peace Centre but occupied and doing work people may not expect or have seen before e.g. survivors of London 7/7 from around the country – people from Palestine and Israel together.

Our final shot left a much changed father sounding the call for action and reminding us of where we came from with images of the boys.

This film has been seen by thousands from showing at a gala ball to showing in private to the Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. It works best in the Peace Centre – our visual checkpoint.

The main challenge is that we are communicating on many levels and the film is but a tool and it requires someone to embellish it and interpret it.

Of course the challenge of using a film as a tool for us to pitch ourselves is just one communication challenge but this is actually something we face across all our communications.

Defining your brand

So, let me share some of our learning about communication. We are a relatively mature organisation stemming from an incident 21 years ago and with a 19 year operating track record. But, our communication journey is one that is developing, somewhat embryonic and open to change. We are novices and the reason I say that is our organisation exists in a rapidly changing environment. The first thing we have done is to find our brand essence.

Understanding what our brand stands for is not only essential for helping us focus our work it is the key for helping us simplify our communications. That does not mean we have simplified down to a very narrow offering as that would not reflect the world we operate in but we have looked for what defines us, what makes us unique.

In our case there is the Parrys and what they give us. Having active founders can be a challenge but it is also a huge asset as their declared positions gives us an ethos – so they do not pursue justice, they express a common view of not wanting their experience to happen to others, they inspire others – it gives us a real legitimacy to what we do and enables us to do quite brave things.

The position that has developed through our evolution is powerful for us. Not taking sides, not campaigining and not being aligned is powerful although from a communication perspective it could be seen to be weak and anodyne – we position it as a strength.

The asset we have, the Peace Centre, and track record is powerful.

Hide your complexities

Many of the most successful brands, such as Amazon, Apple and Google, have truly complex underpinnings, while providing a simple experience. We are the same – we are off the scale complex and operating in hugely complex environments and yet we stand behind one proposition – we stand FOR PEACE – two words.

Simplify your communications

Organisations that make their communications too complicated, have inconsistencies between their message and experience.

What you have to define is what is the promise you are making aligned with what is the reality people experience.

What any stakeholder wants and demands is a clear link between the value a brand says it provides and what it actually does provide.

Content to promote message for peace

So from our perspective before we tackle content three things to consider:

brand essence
how we hide our complexities
how we simplify your messages

Three rules

Perhaps I can share the three rules we use that guides us into content creation.

First the rule of three or pattern recognition – we humans look for patterns in everything. The rule of three is a hugely powerful tool – listen to any politician, view an advertising campaign or look at brands and the rule of three will reveal itself: A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play – Beanz, Meanz Heinz – Stop Look and Listen, Education, Education, Education. Watch performers such as comedians who set up a joke, reinforce it, then deliver a punchline. Even literature – Friends, Romans, Countrymen. And what is the specialsism of the Foundation for Peace – prevention, resolution and response OR before, during, after.

Even during this presentation I am using the rule: I just used three: brand essence, hide your complexities, simplify your message.

When we are shaping content we try to use the rule of three so it resonates and sticks with our stakeholders.

Rule of two – life is dominated about opposites so: stop/go, black/white, good/bad. Of course real life isn’t like that but it communicating you are often trying to take a position and present an opposite. Peace/War Conflict/Resolution. In other words taking a pain and replacing it with a pleasure. So again in shaping content we often are looking to influence stakeholders through a simple either/or message

Rule of one – simple really actions speak louder than words. Remember what I said about what a brand provides and what it delivers. In shaping content we have to make sure our promise lives up to reality and we try and show actions.

The challenges and methods adopted

Our journey is adapting. Ten years ago much of our delivery was face-to-face but the world moves at a pace and the way we communicate changes almost by the second. It is that fast. We have adapted to look at our whole sensory package and to start to develop new media tools, hence why we are working with leading companies like Breakthrough. Our digital presence is no longer about a linear website, it is about blogs, visual and auditory content, it is not about a Twitter or Facebook account – it is about multiple platforms and additional tools such as Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Yammer, You Tube – about using management tools such as Hootsuite, Evernote and Dropbox – having smart devices in use.

And yet we are a very small team and charity and so it is challenging. We don’t have the ability to have dedicated communications professionals or teams – so we view it is everyone’s responsibility. We don’t necessarily have the ability to ‘train’ people but rather we are seeing communications as a naturalised skill to be developed and we have to constantly look to enhance all our capabilities. An example is we recently invited a skilled social media thinker to be at our team meeting and talk about the analytics and algorithms that drive social media effectiveness. Often its a case of just looking else where for best practice e.g. at the moment our team is watching the approach taken by a retail brand – Lidl and looking at how they are communicating and lifting the ideas for application in our are oaf expertise. It is a cut and paste society and we will adopt best practice in this way.

From recent discussions we have learnt how to schedule content and pre-planning it as well as responding and building up our digital profile. We have a long way to go – all the time we are using the three rules and working to an overarching campaign around essence, complexities and simplification.

Hopefully this has given you a flavour of how in forwarding the cause of peace we have to get ever more sophisticated in our communications – we have to do this as the enemies of peace are accelerating and adopting very professional communications. We have to change that and so or content has to be more compelling that theirs and more thought and action provoking.

At the beginning I described how I worked across many sectors. Best practice exists – you just have to look for it. Look outside and around you and in the most unusual of places. Look at how top brands who you admire or who get it right do it. We are a ‘cut and paste’ society so, and I finish with this rule of three and use the words cautiously but not be afraid to beg, borrow and steal – of course all for peace.

Thank you.

Sign off

Join me…For Peace

(e-mail) nick.taylor@foundation4peace.org
(Twitter) @Nick4P
(Professional profile)

(Web) http://www.foundation4peace.org
(Twitter) @peacecentre
(Facebook) Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace
(Phone) 01925 581xxx
(Address) Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Centre, Peace Drive, Warrington, WA5 1HQ
(E-mail) info@foundation4peace.org

How to say NO to the boss!

06/09/2012

It is a dilemma that everybody faces whether you are a consultant advising senior clients or an employee facing up to your boss. I’m talking about how to say ‘no’ or even ‘don’t do it’.

Reading today about the latest scandal to face a big brand – Nokia’s decision to run a fake advertisement (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19499879), one can’t help thinking that somebody in Nokia or at their advertising agency should have spoken out: challenging the decision to fake an advert. But the question is why didn’t they voice an opinion and stop it happening.

You see, such advice can often be career or contract limiting.  The problem here is not necessarily confined to large-scale issues or even those that are ethically questionable or even those that have dubious intent – it can even involve the smallest of issues.

A few years ago I was faced with such a dilemma – for many years now senior managers have always latched onto the latest buzzwords or theories and in the private sector some of you will be familiar with the book ‘from good to great’ and the phrase about all being on the bus.  Fine – this all is but, it was somewhat a surprise that many years after the book publication that a senior public sector client declared to me that he was to launch a newsletter called ‘from good to great’ and that he wanted a picture of a great big red bus on the front of it.

In itself that wasn’t a problem. What I had difficulty with was that he intended this magazine, not for his employees, but for the general public. And his message was clear that if they didn’t like the changes he was proposing in terms of his organisation, they could, to use a phrase, get off the bus!

For me as a consultant it was also made clear that this was in the category of ‘just do it’. So what would you do in this situation? You have a contract to deliver, you need to earn a living and was this such a big deal?  You may have heard the old saying that the customer is always right.

The trouble is, this dilemma is not new or unique and you may relate to it yourself and it is also the reason so many brands end up in trouble.  You see the easiest way is to comply and saying ‘no’ is hard.  If one could be a ‘fly on the wall’ at Nokia – you can bet that investigations, enquiries, ‘witch hunts’ will all be underway – I suspect that somewhere along the line someone would have had that opportunity to question the decision to fake the advert, but the real question we have to ask is why they didn’t.  I think most of us know the answer but I would be interested to hear from anyone who has been brave enough to stand up and be counted and what consequences or outcome they faced.

2011 Reputation – that old ‘roasted’ chestnut

30/12/2011

Reputation – that old ‘roasted’ chestnut.  Well, you can’t fail to notice that it is my pet subject and it is also the discipline that I make a living from.  In some ways you’d think from all of the examples and real life experiences that anyone running an organisation or promoting their own profile would have got it right by now but looking back, as I do every year, the reputation low lights are still as prevalent as ever.  When will we ever learn?  Well, maybe that is a question for 2012 and one that I am always willing to debate and discuss.

So, before reading on, just remember reputation is THE factor in determining intellectual capital and that it makes up a whopping 70 to 80% of overall value.  Whether we are talking about personal or organisational reputation then that is an overwhelming figure that means you ought to be taking these examples highlighted here very seriously.

Of course it is difficult to comment on 2011 without regard to the reputation trinity of politics, press and the police.  Politicians have come and gone and none of that is different to any year.  Across the world, political leadership has been awful.  The state of western economies, particularly in the Eurozone is of great concern and is now hurting us all.  In the UK this is the worse time I can remember since the height of Thatcherism in the eighties.  Walking around my home city of Liverpool is a real eye-opener.  Or at least it should be because you have to look closely.

Compare the situation to just three or four years ago and instead of fully occupied offices and retail units you now see numerous for sale and to let signs.  Perhaps more worrying are the number of people sat with pints in pubs at breakfast time.  The betting shops are doing a great trade as is the National Lottery and its new spin off the Health Lottery which managed to launch and establish a positive reputation against a flurry of criticism for only donating 20% to its good cause whilst pocketing 80%.

But they are not alone in terms of some thriving business developments, the Health Lottery is based around the concept of social enterprise and a company structure that is coming in to its own called the Company Interest Company or CiC.  It is my belief that CiCs are the new business model to watch and that whilst charity is not dead (in 2011 charities still continue to hold their reputations and fund raising despite the recession) the lighter regulated and more commercially savvy CiC is the future.  The beauty of a CiC is it allows social need to be met whilst accepting that making money is not necessarily a bad thing – my words.  Of course CiCs can tread a line.  The Salvation Army took a big reputation hit this year turning over £18m through textile trading with a very dubious relationship with a company called Kettering Textiles (check the name of the director who happens to span both organisations and check out K Textiles little earner – £10m – and how little they pay for the textiles per tonne).  Even so, the Sally Army has managed to steer itself through such reputation storms also picking up the BBC Children in Need contract whilst at the same time knocking other charities like the North West Air Ambulance off big supermarket car parks by its commercial approach.  Overall, my prediction is CiCs will be the big story of 2012 as will any aspect of business to do with lifestyle, health and sustainability.

So back to politics.  What a mess.  The coalition has been an unmitigated reputation disaster.  Manifestos are in the bin and Conservatism is in full flow upsetting everyone from students to the rest of Europe.  The economic strategy is off the rails, we have riots on the streets, mass industrial action and the Liberal Democrats imploding.  And yet, David Cameron seems to come out of these disasters stronger and stronger.  It is an incredible result and the opposition seems to get weaker with a leader in Ed Milliband who is being trounced at every point.  Of course, there is a reputation loser and that is Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.  How on earth did a centre left social democratic party think it could work with right wing conservatism – it is beyond me but I am bemused at how well it is playing for the Conservatives and David Cameron.  I still can’t believe the whole plot will not disintegrate and 2012 will be an interesting year.

Meanwhile, as I write this sat on a freezing cold Northern Rail diesel multiple unit that was probably built in 1940 and is clattering up a branch line late I am told that my ticket in 2012 will cost 5% more.  There are a number of businesses that just don’t get it.  The David Lloyd Centres have also announced that due to greater costs they are passing on the costs in higher prices.  Fine, but what all these brands forget – there is a recession and my income and others is not increasing.  Also, their services are not improving. It is a fine line in balancing the marketing 4Ps and they need to be careful.  Northern Rail are generally awful – I take N Rail trains three times a week and the most interesting view of them is working out will I be on a bad train, a very bad train or a very very bad train.  The anticipation at the station platform is great fun!

So who are the big losers this year.  Well let’s skip passed the Police (well if they don’t coral you in), particularly the Met who from kettling to standing back and watching are just an unmitigated disaster.  Their new guy, Bernard Hogan Howe, cut his ‘chief’ teeth in Liverpool and I once sat with him at an Everton match.  Nobody told me who this military type with polished shoes, pressed trousers and impeccably groomed hair was and I decided to sound off about the Police – whoops.  Mind you he took it all well and he is a real PR and digital performer.  There will be few PR or reputation gaffes on his watch or if there are expect them to be dealt with – also expect him to blog and podcast etc.   I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with some bobbies recently for a client.  What a complete bunch of stereotypes they are.  What can I say, they certainly play their parts and they need to get their act together as unfortunately the other two of the trinity, politics and press, will continue to make their lives difficult.

There is little I can add in 2011 about the press reputation except rock bottom and enough said.  The only issue it leaves me with is just how many enquiries, inquiries, inquisitions, reviews do we need.  Every time something goes awry we hold post mortems to the Nth degree.  How about this novel suggestion, why don’t we plan and manage and direct reputation – here comes a plug for my work – well no not really, but the complete lack of investment does worry me and yes I have a ‘for hire’ sign permanently outside my office.  One of the most interesting press reputation issues will be the interaction with the audience.  This week the Lancashire Evening Post announced its intention to suspend comment facilities on its web page and that it is to prosecute a contributor.  The old letters to the editor pages have come a long way and the BBC in particular since moving to Salford, is keen to get down with the people taking everything from Radio 5,s Fighting Talk to BBC One Football Focus into live settings.  It will all end in tears.  Quite honestly, whilst I can stomach a bit of audience participation, the onerous meanderings of chat show phone in groupies is not my choice of viewing and listening.  However, participation is an area of major growth, probably spurred by the Internet accessibility spilling over to other media.  Witness the rise of internet forums, instant messaging (although Blackberry had its service come under reputation flack this summer), phone ins and digital petitions.

Overall business seems to have chartered a fairly calm passage through the sea of reputation although we have lost quite a few brands as the tough climate claims its casualties (Blacks and La Senza being just the latest to cling on).  Interestingly, some businesses actually achieved a unique position of people feeling sorry for them. Those hard hit by the riots gained incredible support.  Brands like Tesco and Starbucks continue to really aim for world or at least high street vs.  out of town/retail park domination. This remains uncomfortable for me as the high street is under threat.  Conversely this has led other traders to fill the gap. 99p Stores is growing fast as a brand as is Home Bargains. For me, the retail brand of the year is Aldi, closely followed by Lidl. Aldi offers a great experience and their prices are exceptional. A brand to watch in 2012.  One of the store assistants in Aldi told me recently they had 50% more people visiting them this year than last.  Of corse four pints of milk in my l;coal Tesco £1.80 and in Aldi £1 – I know who I want to have the 80p difference – me!

So what about organisations that have really made a reputation mess. Well, St Paul’s Cathedral lost the plot when the Occupy camp arrived. A perfect example of an organisation that just did not plan or manage its reputation. I passed by the camp last week and was mildly amused to see that the camp is now sited next to a Blacks Outdoor Store – good planning except that brand is struggling towards a pre-pack and rescue. Travellers and camps took a reputation bashing generally with the disaster at Dale Farm.

But for me, the reputation disaster has to be in the sports sector and in particular football. At the time of writing two high profile international players are embroiled in serious allegations relating to racism, there isn’t a day goes by that doesn’t present another character to the pantomime, whether that be an imature player letting off fireworks or a tempremental prima donna refusing to play and fulfill his contract. The real reputation disaster starts at the top – rules, officials, governance is devoid of any sense of control or balance. So this year I nominate FIFA as the entity with the worse reputation.

Pause for a moment – its not just football. The Rugby Football Union collapsed at the seams as its huge bureaucratic, and if I may observe rather pompous, establishment failed to grasp that professional players had to be just that – professional. London showed how fragile it may prove next year failing to anticipate a late finish at the world ATP tennis finals, the showcase world tennis event already under threat from our archaic tax laws, stranding thousands at a closed tube station. Even Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, got in on the act by holding up play by arriving late to his seat – mind you that was very funny to see the camera on Boris and his bag of popcorn whilst Roger Federer glared at him. And the BBC showcase Sports Personality of the Year unfortunately managed to conjure up a 100% female free event.

So sport is the reputation loser in 2011 – a complete mess of egos, inadequate ownership, overpaid and out of touch practitioners and a gullible following from punters to pundits. FIFA are not the exception, but one wonders who on earth carries out their PR and stakeholder management.

So looking forward, one can only wonder what we will face in 2012. The Olympics is the obvious ‘trip wire,’ sport can be relied on to keep the poor reputation flag flying although I hope it is the opposite and that next year I will be upholding it as THE reputation winner.  The tenuous coalition will no doubt give us a lot to ponder.

From my perspective, convincing organisations and people to plan and manage reputation remains my priority.  It’s a mantra worth chanting.

You cant be given a brand you have to earn it

06/12/2011

Bodyproject contributes to a Reputation Institiute blog:

My company works with complex organisations to help them protect and promote their reputation and I entirely agree with Elliot.

We find the best way of thinking about this is to make an analogy with an individual.

I find that in terms of an individual form the essence of your genetics, behaviours, way you look and speak and act is acquired from what influences your conception to where you live to what you eat, what experiences you have etc. It is hugely complex.

There are three elements to reputation and therefore brand. First – identity. Of course this can be influenced and is almost entirely in your control (i.e the ‘almost’ is somewhat dictated – you cant wear a skinny t shirt if you are overweight, your accent may be influenced by were you are brought up etc) but you can learn and change and shape your whole identity. As also can organisation through its brand, key messages, 4Ps -products (and service), promotion and placement and price etc.

The second is image – the reverse of identity – how others perceive you. Far more difficult to control but you can choose how you promote your identity i.e. if you bully someone they may not have a very good image of you – to say the least. Again organisations can tackle this aspect of their brand through the way they deliver customer service, the insights they receive, the experiences they deliver.

But the hardest aspect of brand and why Elliot is so right is that of personality. I sum this up as actions speak louder than words. It doesn’t matter how many strap lines, lovely logos and values an organisation espouses, what you do speaks far more loudly than what you say.

So many consultants can help shape all this through coaching, mentoring, reflecting back, cajoling etc but ultimately brand is something you give rather than what you are given.

Sound advice on a crisis

15/08/2011

Roland Rudd, Finsbury Executive Chairman, gives sound advice:

“When you’ve got a major crisis of any kind, the most important thing is to recognise the enormity of it. It’s sometimes better to exaggerate it to yourself. Never try and suppress it. Never try and blame anybody else. Never try and pretend that you’re the victim.”

“The reason people as smart as the Murdochs got it wrong at the start is that it’s easier to be wise about other people’s problems than about your own.”

Reputation – why it matters and how you can manage it

09/11/2010

“…Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial…”

William Shakespeare Othello. ACT II Scene 3.

Later this month, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) will publish a report by Leslie Kossoff entitled: “Reputation – why it matters and how you can manage it.”

In the weeks leading up to publication, Bodyproject will be debating the role of reputation in relation to high performance and growth.  Bodyproject’s Advanced Stakeholder Management (ASM) methodology supports organisations in protecting and promoting reputation.  In this first article we look at the importance of reputation and its critical role within successful organisations.

CIMA President, George Glass, recently drew a parallel to a famous beer commercial when he said: “Management accountants add value to the corporate parts other accountants cannot reach.”  It’s an interesting thought and not before time that a key business profession realises that they have further to go in adding value than their role suggests by also considering the value attributed to reputation.

In our opinion there are three dimensions to business success: performance, growth and reputation.  The first two dimensions are tangible, measurable and therefore manageable.  They are the bastions of traditional accounting defined by the elements that make up book value and can be measured by the strength of the balance sheet.  The third dimension, reputation, is different.  It is almost wholly intangible, difficult to measure and therefore very difficult to manage.

And yet, reputation’s value and consequent potential liability is great, almost infinite in some respects.  Whilst book value and traditional accounting is one way of valuing a business, it misses the true value that makes up a business’s intellectual capital – the goodwill that creates the absolute value that is often only realised during a sale but may be severely damaged or enhanced at almost anytime.

Mario Simon, the Managing Director of American market research company Millward Brown Optimor illustrates this when he says: “In 1980 almost 100 per cent of the value of an average Standard & Poor’s 500 company consisted of tangible assets such as chairs, factories and inventory.

“That figure is now more like 30 or 40 per cent – the rest comes from intangible value, about half of which is attributed to brand.

“It is not a stretch to say that for many companies brand is their single biggest asset.”

So, it is hardly surprising that reputation is now being recognised as increasingly the most critical dimension of success.  High growth and performance are vitally important but equally so is the protection and promotion of reputation.

So what exactly is reputation and how does it differ to brand?

Brand is often defined as the ‘corporate promise’ that it is assumed that the organisation has some control over, whilst reputation is more a way stakeholders perceive the organisation.

Chris Fill, co-author of Managing Corporate Reputation, describes brand as: “how a company wants to be seen and is all about the corporate promise. Reputation is entirely a stakeholder perception over time.

“Stakeholders will make an assessment of how well the organisation has performed against the brand’s promise.”

In our view reputation is not that simple to define and its lack of tangibility makes it a difficult proposition for people to understand.  Reputation is made up of three component parts:  identity, image and personality.

Identity is similar to the corporate promise in that it is almost wholly controlled by the organisation and is ostensibly what it says about itself through its brand, advertising, products and services etc.   Image is the reverse opposite – the perceptions of its stakeholders.  The third aspect is that of personality – often this can be viewed of how well the identity and image match up but actually is more like the state of reality in which the organisation exists.  It is actually the organisation’s true self as opposed to the rather different realities created through identity and perceived through image.

This is hugely complex and is deeply swathed in all sorts of philosophy and psychology.  But if organisation leaders do not intellectually grasp its importance then they risk their performance and growth.

When Kraft Food Inc bought Cadburys they were buying a company with a book value of £4bn.  They actually paid more like $11.9bn.  The element of ‘goodwill’ or intellectual capital was a huge proportion of the value of that acquisition.  The battle for the sale was hard fought and included a massive aspect of reputation with over 94% of the British population reporting through a YouGov poll that they were aware of the sale.  For the harsh corporate Kraft it all came as a shock.  When they went on to sell a factory, against promises made during the sales process, their reputation was badly hit and ended with them apologising to the British Parliament.

In fact the Kraft Foods Chief Executive Irene B Rosenfeld in the lead up to the sale recognised the importance of reputation and its link to the intrinsic value of intellectual capital when she wrote to the UK Government’s business secretary stating: “(she understood) the concerns of the UK government and I can again assure you of our intentions to proceed with sincere respect for Cadbury’s heritage, people and identity.”

On her recent visit to the UK she jokingly said that she had been surprised at the role of the Crème Egg in British culture.  No joke really when that product alone has estimated brand value of £45m.

David Haigh, CEO of brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance, explains the value of reputation in relation to brand when he says: “Brands affect all audiences or all stakeholder groups – from customers to staff and financiers.

“If the brand is highly regarded then they behave in a more favourable way towards the organisation, which then drives up its value.

“For each of the audiences of an organisation there is the same broad set of criteria – functional delivery, image and conduct – by which they judge whether it’s a good brand or not.”

At Bodyproject, we try to look at the entire role played by performance, growth in concert with reputation.  We no longer think that book value is an adequate judgement of value and that competitive advantage is derived solely from the tangible aspects of doing business.  It is the management of stakeholders and the integration of marketing communications as a ‘hard’ discipline alongside accounting and legal that the true difference is seen.

The Kossoff report will make vital reading and what is most important is that it is being published by CIMA.  Reputation has long been associated with the ‘softer’ professions such as public relations and marketing but it is time that its role is recognised at every boardroom table.  Because, no matter how good your performance, no matter what your growth aspirations are you will only be as good as your reputation.

In our next article to be published week commencing 15th November we will consider in more detail one of the components of reputation – identity.

For more information about Bodyproject and our Advanced Stakeholder Management methodology that helps organisations promote and protect reputation call 0151 709 2288 or e-mail nicktaylor@bodyproject.co.uk

Advanced Stakeholder Management aids recovery!

05/08/2010

“…If you grow slowly and strongly, you will be around for a long time…”

Edwin Booth Chairman Booths Supermarkets

Business has never been harder, but in some sectors there is an increasing understanding that the only way to recover and even survive is through continued investment and growth.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CiPR) latest ‘state of the industry’ research reports a marked increase in PR budgets with professionals expressing confidence in terms of the health of the PR industry and growth expectations.

A host of areas are predicted for growth in the coming year, with key ‘ones to watch’ being online reputation management, crisis management and strategic planning.

Bodyproject, a niche consultancy based in Liverpool, that pioneers an Advanced Stakeholder Management (ASM) methodology, believes that those businesses that want to succeed and grow are continuing to invest to protect and promote their reputation.

Nick Taylor, owner of Bodyproject comments: “The strength of the balance sheet is clearly a major factor but more and more companies are understanding that the true value of their business is tied up in their intangible assets and intellectual capital.

“Those businesses that continue to invest and take a strategic approach to managing their reputation are also the ones that are expressing optimism that they can trade their way through the recession”

Bodyproject is seeing a great deal of interest in the ASM methodology from businesses that are growing, increasing employment, achieving more sales, reducing costs and demonstrably becoming profitable.

Nick continues: “I am convinced that to be successful in business you have to go beyond the traditional aspects of stakeholder management around the protection of reputation and brand.

“Our ASM methodology is an innovative strategy seeking to integrate the management of stakeholders into core business with visibility and control from senior leaders and board level rather than solely the preserve of PR, marketing and communications departments.”

Businesses achieving direct commercial advantage understand the essential elements of stakeholder relationships, including the development of a better brand image, additional market insight, increased flow of new product and service ideas, improvement of internal business processes, better insight into consumer behaviour, new marketing channels for company products and services, and early warning of potential risk and crisis.

Advertising – times they are a changin’

13/06/2010

“…What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself…”

Abraham Lincoln – former US President

Robert Green’s error will no doubt become the domain of advertisers as the inevitable ‘Danny Bakers 101 goal keeping bloopers’ and numerous other World Cup tosh makes its way onto DVDs and books destined for every boy’s Christmas stocking.  But the biggest advertising blooper ‘ever’ was committed by ITV who managed to switch in an advert for Hyundai cars at the very moment England scored their goal.

ITV have apologised blaming a transmission error.  What on earth does that mean?  Of course there was a transmission error as watching choreographed Hyundai cars pretending to play football with a giant ball, at the very moment Steve G scored, was not what the nation had switched to high definition (HD) TV for.

For Bodyproject. as a communications pundit, there are numerous points to discuss following this match.  First of all, how does commercial broadcasting stand up to licensed broadcasts from the BBC.  Second, whilst HD is technically and visually superior, it does have a significant transmission problem and third, the woeful excuse from yet another major corporate entity, intent on ‘spinning’ rather than explaining honestly why it happened and what it is doing to prevent a reoccurrence.

The fact is commercial broadcast remains a pain.  Watching any sport on channels such as Eurosport and Sky Sports is challenging.  Try tennis when the same idents and woefully painful adverts are shown again and again between every set or between every round in say boxing.  It is almost brain washing and, if anything,serves to put you off the product.

The World Cup of course is ‘big bucks’ advertising and the super brands are in town.  But it doesn’t matter how clever Adidas is combining a classic film with cameos from Beckham, Noel Gallagher and Ian Brown; it is still an intrusion when played just before the teams walk out, just after the national anthems and for ITV, in error,  as the key goal is scored.  For me, there needs to be a balance, and at the moment it isn’t being struck, as most comment I am picking up is that people much prefer the BBC for its uninterrupted coverage – which is not great for the brands sinking all this money into promoting their product!

Equally ITV’s HD switch on has all been to coincide with this world showpiece event, so for them last night was as big a disaster as that of Robert Green’s faux-pas.  Their explanation is woeful and to my communication colleagues at the broadcaster I say wake up and hold your hand like Green and apologise properly.  You are not Toyota or BP shying away from reality – face up to it.

HD is suffering teething problems namely in that it cannot regionalise so I sometimes am sat in Liverpool having to watch London’s weather (yes we are still south east centric in the world of TV transmission).  It also shares channel feeds and so watching Rafa Nadal playing at Queens is suddenly interrupted for fifteen minutes to allow BBC2 to join in, credits and punditry an all, leaving me frustrated at losing the match I was enjoying.   At the moment it is all over the place.

I can say that at this time, I and the rest of England, cannot wait for the Algeria match.  Mainly as it may still be at risk from transmission interruption but it will be certainly free of Hyundai interruption.